Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Balsamic Chicken – SUPER Easy

This is what I made for dinner last night (and had leftovers for lunch today), I love it and it’s super easy. I don’t think it can even really be considered a recipe it’s so easy.

All I do is marinate boneless skinless chicken breast in balsamic vinegar. Just take the thawed chicken and cover it in balsamic vinegar and let it soak for at least 30 minutes (if I’m on top of things and thawed the chicken ahead of time I throw in the balsamic vinegar in the morning and let it soak all day in the fridge, but that doesn’t always happen). I don’t measure the balsamic vinegar I just make sure each piece of chicken is coated and that there’s a little on the bottom of the container to let it soak. Sometimes I add in a pinch or two of salt and pepper, but not always. Then I just dump the chicken and marinade into a glass baking dish and bake at 375 degrees for 35-45 minutes.

Chicken marinating (the holes/dots are from the fork I used to turn the chicken)

The chicken ends up being really moist and delicious. Although the delicious part might be more of an acquired taste…this is probably my second favorite type of chicken ever, the fianc√© however would not rank it that high.

As the chicken cools off just a tad from the oven, I pop in some Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice into the microwave for 90 seconds. (I really like the Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice, it’s so fast and so easy. There are a lot of varieties, but I usually use the brown and wild rice mix when I’m serving it as a side to chicken or salmon.)

To round out the meal, I finish it off with a green vegetable; my favorites are asparagus or green beans.

Monday, January 25, 2010

BIG News!

I’m engaged!!!

I’m engaged to a wonderful man, he’s the love of my life and I’m so very happy.


We’ve been together 3 years. He surprised me last Friday night (the 15th).

He created a story to get me out of the house (I had planned to stay home and get things ready for the dinner party). He drove me up to a place that overlooked the city, it was beautiful. It was perfect.

He had talked to my dad the weekend before…I had no idea.

We went and told my parents right after it happened. Then we called lots of family and friends late into the evening. Saturday morning we met some family friends for brunch and surprised them with the news! Saturday night at the end of the dinner party we broke the news to everyone. More phone calls and texts were scattered throughout the weekend.

We don’t know any details yet, we decided to just enjoy that first weekend and telling everyone. We’ve started some initial discussions, but nothing has been decided. As we start entering the planning phase I’m sure you’ll see more and more posts contemplating the many decisions we have ahead of us.

I can’t wait!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Surprise Dinner Party

[Warning: Long Post]

One of my good friends got engaged at the beginning of December. I'm so happy for them; they are perfect for each other! So to celebrate a few of us decided to throw her and her fiancé a surprise dinner party!

It was a great excuse to cook some favorites and try out some new recipes.

I decided a while back that I would make Nonni’s lasagna (Nonni was my great-grandmother and I realize this probably isn't a 100% accurate translation to Italian, but that's what everyone called her). It’s an old family recipe and it’s usually a hit (just ask my cousin's husband, he probably would have eaten almost the whole pan if my boyfriend wouldn't have stopped him - it's always nice when people argue over who gets to eat the food you made).

The sauce needs to simmer for quite a while to let the flavors develop, and my house smelled so wonderful.

Meanwhile I started on my desserts. Yes, plural. One of my Christmas gifts from my boyfriend’s parents was a tart pan; I’ve wanted a tart pan ever since I took a one-night pastry class at Whole Foods. Plus, one of my friends attending the gathering LOVES fruit tarts. However, that class was a long time ago and when I pulled out the recipe packet there was a couple of gray areas. So, I decided to make mini cheesecakes in addition to the fruit tart, that way if the fruit tart was a bust I wouldn’t be dessert-less and if the fruit tart was a success there would just be a variety. I sometimes get a bit over-ambitious when I plan these sorts of things, but I was sure I would be just fine, I thought I had plenty of time to get everything done…

…Thankfully, my parents were able to come and help me out with a few things so I would be ready when everyone arrived (due to some unexpected events my original schedule was a little thrown off…more on that later). They were a HUGE help!

And a big thanks to the girls that helped out with salad, chairs (otherwise half the party would have been sitting on the floor, I don't currently have a large dining table), and finishing up last minute ganache in the kitchen!

I’ll give a quick review on the results from my time in the kitchen last Saturday.

Nonni’s Lasagna
The last couple of times I’ve made the lasagna I’ve made it ahead of time and then froze it or refrigerated it until needed, but I’ve also had some problems with the first couple of pieces of lasagna being a bit runny (even though it rested for very long amounts of time). So this time I decided to make it all in one day and I also made the sauce a little thicker than the last couple of times. It turned out great! Sorry, I won’t be posting that recipe, family only.

Yum!

A view of the table setting for the party & the lasagna (of course).

Fruit Tart
I only have a hand mixer, the recipe called for a stand mixer. Most, not all, but most recipes you can adapt to a hand mixer. I think this one would have been better with a stand mixer. The dough just didn’t come together on its own, I needed to smoosh it together and knead it a bit. Then, after it chilled, it was difficult to roll out and kept cracking, but I also don’t have amazing upper body strength and thankfully my dad was still at my house and was able to help out.

I have never made real, honest from scratch, pastry cream. I was a little nervous, but decided to give the real thing a shot instead of using a filling that was based on instant pudding or cream cheese. There is absolutely nothing wrong with fillings based on instant pudding or cream cheese, I have used them before and will use them again, I just wanted to go all out for my first tart. My mom helped me with the pastry cream because it was a lot more needy and high maintenance than I’d realized (you can’t stop stirring it at all) and I had a million other things I was trying to get done in the kitchen and in my house before guests arrived.

The pastry cream was delicious! I arranged the fruit on top and used a glaze from a different recipe to finish it off.


Mini Cheesecake
I love cheesecake. I love cupcakes, partly because they are small. So what would be better than a mini cheesecake? I got the mini cheesecake pan for my birthday, this is the second time I’ve used it and I love it! I just used a pretty basic plain cheesecake recipe this time and topped it off with some chocolate ganache.


It was so nice to have everyone together at once. We had a great time!

friends.food.fun. What more could you want from a Saturday night?

Hmmm…Maybe a surprise announcement? Details next time…

Saturday, January 16, 2010

New Tradition

It’s no secret that I love Pioneer Woman. So back in November when she came to Colorado for a stop on her book tour, I knew I had to go. I convinced my boyfriend to go and keep me company on the drive and during the wait.

He didn’t understand why we had to go so early, until the crowds started showing up, it was packed! (The people went up the stairs and filled the second floor!)


Then he was glad we got there early and wouldn’t have to wait until the middle of the night for my cookbooks to get signed.

I have been waiting to try some recipes from her cookbook. I’ve tried a few recipes from her blog before and they were wonderful. So after Christmas I picked out my first recipe from the book and decided to give it a try for New Year’s Day…cinnamon rolls.

I’ve never made any type of bread dough from scratch, I was a little nervous. But I’m happy to report that it went very well! The yeast and the rising…nothing to be scared of anymore. I made the dough on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve and let it sit in the fridge until New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Day I rolled out the dough, covered it with filling, rolled it up, sliced it, let it rest and then into the oven it went. Meanwhile I made the maple coffee icing. I should also note that I quartered the recipe. Pioneer Woman’s original recipe makes 40-50 rolls…and well I definitely didn’t need 50 rolls sitting around past New Year’s Day.



(Pre-Icing)

(Post Icing, sorry about the picture quality on this one.)

The cinnamon rolls were delicious! So delicious in fact that my boyfriend declared that it should be a new tradition to have these cinnamon rolls every New Year’s Day. He loved them!

Note: The cinnamon roll recipe is available on Pioneer Woman’s web site. However, I strongly recommend that you buy the cookbook, it’s great!

Why a blog? Why baking?

Why:

It all started with an Easy Bake Oven…a RED Easy Bake Oven. It also didn’t hurt that I had a mom that was a cake decorator back in the day; needless to say every single birthday cake I ever had was amazing. Those aspects are probably what led to a love of baking at a very young age.

From time to time, my friend and I would try to convince my mom to let us bake and use her leftover royal icing flowers to decorate our cakes. Sometimes we succeeded, but it didn’t always work… We could pretty much handle the baking on our own, but the clean-up was another story.

As I got older and busier with school, sports, and a variety of other extracurricular activities baking got pushed out and somewhat forgotten. It wasn’t until I moved into my first house that I really started spending some quality time in the kitchen. Cooking was more of a necessity, but baking was special and I loved any excuse or reason to bake. Most of those excuses and reasons came in the form of friend get-togethers, parties, BBQs, etc. I may have become slightly obsessed with cupcakes for a time. I still think they are a great dessert; they’re easy to take anywhere because they are individual desserts that you don’t necessarily need a plate and utensils to enjoy. Anyway…

I don’t have cable or satellite TV, just plain old normal local TV. What does this have to do with baking or cooking? Well, after college football season ends, there’s not much on local TV channels during the weekend except for paid programming…unless you switch over to the PBS stations. Most weekends you can find marathons of cooking shows on PBS channels and it became my own, FREE, food channel. I watched them all, Lidia’s Italy, Baking with Julia, Jacques and Julia, America’s Test Kitchen, Mexico One Plate at a Time, Simply Ming, and more. I was fascinated with what I saw and all the things I was learning. It gave me a little more courage to branch out from my cupcakes.

Not only has PBS been a great resource, but all the wonderful and amazing food bloggers out there have been very inspiring. I follow quite a few, you can see some of my favorites listed over on the right. Now I’m finally jumping in to the mix and participating instead of just reading on the sidelines.

Over the last several years my cooking and baking hobby has grown into more of a passion. It’s something that relaxes me when I’m stressed at work, it’s something that I enjoy and it’s something that others can enjoy as well. To take my growing passion to the next level, I decided to start sharing my endeavors on this little blog. I hope you enjoy!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hmm...

Where:
Maybe I should have thought about the 5 W’s a little more before I agreed to answer all of them as my blog kick-off. Where? Does this question even make sense to answer? Hmmm…

Well, I live in Colorado as I’ve mentioned. My blog is on the wonderful internet at: http://five-faithfamilyfriendsfoodfun.blogspot.com/ which you already know if you’re reading this. The baking and cooking experiences that I will be posting about will take place in my kitchen (below).

I guess that about covers it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Finally!

The next question in the series...

When:
I’ve been thinking about starting a blog for about four years. I would talk to a couple of friends about the idea and do some preliminary research but I’d never actually get started.

So what changed? Well, I realized I was thinking and talking about it more and more as I started baking more and more. And all along I would be taking pictures of my creations. Then I completed a series of cake decorating classes this summer and friends started asking to see the pictures…which would have been easiest to share if I had already had my blog set-up. Even still, I procrastinated. Then I saw the movie Julie & Julia…inspiring. Then I went to Pioneer Woman’s book signing where she talked about how she got started…it didn’t seem like such a big ordeal or scary thing when she described it. So…after the holidays and to kick-off the coming New Year I decided I would FINALLY start my blog.

Posting…I know there are some bloggers that post everyday and some that release new posts they same time every week (such as every Monday morning). I don’t think that daily would be a realistic schedule for me to start with. I know some other bloggers try to post about once a week. I think that’s going to be my goal for five…once a week or at least a few times a month to get started. We’ll see how it goes.